Rock climbing an inherently dangerous.
Taking falls, navigating rugged terrain, and mitigating the unpredictable elements of nature are all parts of the sport.
It's worth protecting your head - and safe climbers will tell you a rock climbing helmet is the most important piece of gear to own.
With so many climbing helmets on the market, it’s hard to choose which one’s right for you. There are tons of factors to consider including fit, style, weight, and cost.
Let’s look at the best rock climbing helmets for 2018.
|Best Lightweight Rock Climbing Helmet||Black Diamond Vapor|
|Best Women’s Climbing Helmet||Black Diamond Vector|
|Best Helmet for Big Heads||Salewa Vega|
|Best Low Profile Climbing Helmet||Mammut Wall Rider|
|Best Kid’s Climbing Helmet||Petzl PICCHU|
|Best Alpine Climbing Helmet||Petzl Boreo|
|Best Budget Climbing Helmet||Black Diamond Half Dome|
|Best Climbing Helmet for Small Heads||Petzl ELIA|
Best Lightweight Rock Climbing Helmet - Black Diamond Vapor
Black Diamond makes quality climbing gear - and the Vapor is the latest addition to its arsenal of helmets. It’s one of the lightest helmets on the market, weighing in at 6.6 ounces.
The Vapor provides for a sleek, low profile and unprecedented ventilation - making it an ideal choice for summer sends. The company wedged a sheet of Kevlar and carbon rods in between the EPS foam and polycarbonate shell, eliminating weight while providing for high standards of impact protection.
The suspension system is intuitive and the product includes headlamp clamps for those pre-dawn missions. Interior padding makes for a comfortable helmet that you can wear all day and forget that you’re wearing it.
At $140 / £106, the Vapor isn’t cheap - but your head is worth more.
If fast and light is your style, the Vapor is an excellent choice.
Best Women’s Climbing Helmet - Black Diamond Vector
Although most climbing helmets are unisex, women’s specific climbing helmets offer female climbers options tailored just for them. They’re generally sized smaller than unisex helmets and usually come in a variety of colors.
The Vector is extremely versatile, recommended for anything from weekend cragging to long alpine ascents. The Vector is lightweight - weighing in at 8.1 ounces - while providing for plenty of impact protection.
A polycarbonate shell compliments the EPS foam construction. Like the Vapor, generous ventilation ports mean plenty of airflow on those hot summer days.
The Vector is easy to adjust via a ratchet system complimented by molded push buttons. Its design makes it easy to stow away in your backpack on long approaches and includes headlamp clips, as well.
If you’re a female climber and you want a helmet tailored just for you, the Vector’s $100 / £60 price tag is a fair price to pay.
Best Helmet for Big Heads - Salewa Vega
If you have a larger head, it might be difficult to find a climbing helmet that fits well. While helmets are available in different sizes, many models don’t offer extra large options.
The Salewa Vega is one of a family of helmets suitable for those with larger heads, accompanied by the Black Diamond Vapor - our best lightweight pick.
The Vega’s large / extra large size will fit heads between 23-25 inches (59-63 centimeters).
The Vega is a great all-around helmet and weighs only 10 ounces, while maintaining a durable identity.
Unlike many of its competitors, two layers of foam including a dense inner layer of EPS and a single piece of EPP provide for added impact protection.
Long, thin vents along the sides and back of the helmet serve for decent ventilation. The Vega also offers some unique features, including a combination of clips at the front and elastic at the back to hold a headlamp in place.
It costs about $120 / £60, which might seem pricey, but is the best value of the limited helmet options for climbers with larger heads.
Best Low Profile Climbing Helmet - Mammut Wall Rider
The Mammut Wall Rider offers a sleek, low-profile look while providing adequate protection for your head - in exactly the places you need it.
The helmet comprises primarily EPP foam, but a hard polycarbonate shell covers the top and front of the helmet, where impact is most likely to occur. This also saves weight and at 6.9 ounces, the Wall Rider is only slightly heavier than the Black Diamond Vapor.
The only complaint to mention is a slightly finicky adjustment system, but once you’ve fixed it for your head, you won’t have to mess with it again. Large openings in the rear of the helmet provide for excellent ventilation.
The Wall Rider makes for a great all-around helmet whether you’re climbing big walls, icy caves, or alpine routes. At $100 / £70, it’s also cheaper than many options on this list.
Best Kid’s Climbing Helmet - Petzl PICCHU
If you’ve got a little one who’s interested in climbing, you’re in luck - there is plenty of kid-specific climbing gear on the market. Like most parents, a helmet is probably the first thing you’re going to buy for them, and the Petzl PICCHU is a quality choice.
Petzl designed the PICCHU to meet standards for both cycling and rock climbing - making for a two-in-one package that’s hard to pass up, especially for just $60 / £35. The PICCHU is suitable for kids between the ages of 3 and 8, with sizes ranging from 48-54 centimeters.
The PICCHU provides for all around protection, featuring an ABS shell and polystyrene liner for impact absorption. The interior foam padding is removable which makes for an easy cleaning job.
The helmet includes multiple adjustability features including an interior headband, chin strap, and side release buckle. The part that kids will love most?
The helmet comes with three pages of stickers for personalization, one of which is reflective for nighttime visibility.
Best Alpine Climbing Helmet - Petzl Boreo
When climbing an alpine route, you generally come across the most loose rock and potential for rockfall. This means that durability should be a key factor in deciding which helmet to wear.
The Petzl Boreo is one of the most durable helmets on the market. It features both EPP and EPS foam in addition to a hard ABS shell, which might seem like overkill to some, until a rock comes crashing down on your head.
The shell-encased foams also help disperse the force of impact, making for even burlier noggin protection. It’s easy to attach a headlamp too, which is a crucial for alpine starts.
At 11 ounces, it’s light enough to carry on an alpine expedition while providing the level of protection you need in the mountains. Its affordable $65 / £55 price tag simply seals the deal.
Best Budget Climbing Helmet - Black Diamond Half Dome
If you’re short on cash, new to climbing, or looking for something tried and true, Black Diamond’s Half Dome helmet checks all the boxes - and then some. This popular workhorse has been a company staple for years.
A solid ABS shell protects the EPS foam interior, making it superior to polycarbonate shells options in terms of durability. Weighing in at 11 ounces, it won’t win any lightweight awards, but it gets the job done and is ideal for any kind of climbing.
The suspension system is extremely adjustable and includes a custom wheel for fine-tuning fit. The headlamp clips are some of the most secure on the market so you don’t have to worry about losing your light. The only downside is a lack of adequate ventilation ports, but it’s hard to beat the $60 / £40 price.
Best Climbing Helmet for Small Heads - Petzl ELIA
Petzl is a climbing company that’s been in the business long enough it knows how to cover all its bases. Although the company labels the ELIA as a women’s-specific helmet, a range of masculine colours makes it an ideal choice for males with small heads, as well.
The ELIA is an ABS style helmet but offers superior ventilation when compared to other ABS models. It’s comfortable and easy to adjust - and if you’re a woman or a man with long hair, you’ll love the U-shaped cutout designed for a ponytail. There are also side adjustments which helps keep the helmet in place.
The ELIA fits heads ranging from 50-58 centimeters, which crosses over into the range offered by our pick for the best kid’s helmet. Wearing a kid’s helmet is an option, but the ELIA’s added features make it a more desirable pick for climbers with small heads. Weighing in at 10.1 ounces, it’s an ideal all-around climbing helmet complimented by an affordable $65 / £50 price tag.
Different Types of Rock Climbing Helmets
Foam Types: EPP (expanded polypropylene) versus EPA (expanded polystyrene)
EPS foam has been around for awhile and serves as an effective shock-absorbing substance. It’s capable of absorbing a serious impact, but has a limited lifespan. EPS functions by fracturing upon impact, and once cracks begin to form in the foam, you’ll need to purchase a new helmet.
EPP performs oppositely - it will absorb impacts without shattering. In addition, this type of foam is so effective it doesn’t require a polycarbonate or ABS shell, although some companies incorporate them into its helmets regardless.
Definition of a Hardshell Helmet
A hardshell helmet is composed of an ABS outer shell, which usually encapsulates EPS foam.
The defining factor of a hardshell helmet is that the primary structural component is the shell itself, which is much thicker than the polycarbonate shells found on lightweight foam models. Many climbers consider them more durable, and they’re definitely less expensive overall.
The downside to hardshell helmets is the added weight.